A-A students get lesson on bullying

Friday, October 26, 2012
Students "band" together to stop bullying. Each student received a band that says just that. /Photo by Lorri Glawe

Bullying - Defined, Iowa Code Section 280: A negative act, based on an actual or perceived trait or characteristic of a student, that creates a hostile school environment.

Can be carried out through verbal, written, physical and/or l electronically. At least one condition must be met:

* Student or property in reasonable fear of harm.

* Detrimental effect on student's physical or mental health.

* Detrimental effect on student's academic performance.

* Interferes with student's ability to participate in school activities, etc.

The Alta-Aurelia students were fortunate to have Safety Education Officer Trooper Vince Kurtz in their schools recently to speak on bullying. Kurtz, who is the Safety Education Officer for Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Lyon, O'Brien, Palo Alto, Sioux/Buena Vista, Cherokee and Plymouth Counties also spoke to parents at a special event last week.

"You've heard that rhyme, 'Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me,'" he said to the students. "Do you think that is true?" The young students stopped to think and blurted out answers of yes and no.

"Words can hurt a person and effect them in the way they think, feel and act," he said.

It used to be that bullying was something done only face-to-face but there is a new kind of bullying that is more hurtful and reaches more people than that. It is cyber-bullying .

"This is more dangerous," said Trooper Kurtz, of the use of the Internet and related technologies to harm other people, "Cyber-bullying is not in person and non-physical. It is easier to say bad things when you are not looking at a person."

There are many problems connected with cyber-bullying including the fact that it can be done 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Bullying that goes on to the computer can be easily spread to hundreds of thousands of people. "There is no way for the person being bullied to get away. The cyber-bully thinks, 'no one will ever catch me'," Trooper Kurtz said. "That's not true. Law enforcement is good at figuring out who posts this kind of hurtful words and they can take care of it."

Trooper Kurtz told the students that if they are being cyber-bullied to not respond to the message and to save any emails, etc. for the law enforcement. "That will help us find the person," he said.

He also encouraged the students that if they are being cyber-bullied to not hide from it but to tell someone they trust - a friend, parent, teacher or even a law enforcement officer.

"Are you a bully?" he asked the students. "I hope not."

There are tough laws that deal with bullies.

In 2007, he said, the Iowa Legislature said, "We are not going to accept this anymore."

Each school in the state was required to write a policy to handle bullying. In many cases, the school takes care of the problem but sometimes the law has to take over.

He told the students the consequences that occur when law enforcement comes into the picture.

"If you are charged with bullying, that is harassment. You are turned over to juvenile court. That's not a road you want to go down."

Bullying yearly reports have increased over the past four school years. number of reports state wide by year

* 2008-2009 - 8,511

* 2009-2010 - 8,614

* 2010-2011 - ,203

* 2011-2012 - 10,922

To parents out there, he shares advice.

"If your child is being bullied or cyber-bullied,

* listen

* avoid rushing to judgement

* encourage them

* support your child

* talk about how to go forward

Respect. This is the golden rule.

"Encourage children to respect everyone regardless of personality," he said. "Remind children that they will not always get along with everyone in life, there will always be personality conflicts, disagreements. This does not mean that you can bully them because they don't see eye to eye with you."

He further added, " Take the high road and be a friend. You have that opportunity. Don't be a bully and don't walk away if you see someone being bullied."